The guidebook

Donít leave home without one! I want to emphasize the importance of purchasing a good quality guidebook for your travels. This is one of your essential tools to help you from day to day. There are many quality guidebooks that target different types of travellers. Go through a selection of them and pick out one that meets your needs. Here are the topics that I found important when I travel.

Coverage: Pick a book that covers the country or countries you will be travelling to. I would choose to have a watered down guidebook that covers 10 to 40 counties that I would be travelling to, instead of buying 10 to 30 individual books. Maps: Detailed, clearly printed maps of all of the major points of interest, roads, and railways are really important. Sometimes this map is all you have when you first arrive in a new place.

City Information: Information on places to stay, things to do, and places to eat. A map of each major city with marked hotels, hostels, restaurants, and points of interest. Also provides a rough estimate of costs and quality for various services.

Quick Facts: Climate, language, currency, visa requirements, costs, dangers, events, etc.

Transportation: What is the best way to move around the country? Listing the various hours of operation, rough estimates of costs, and contact information is useful.

As important a guidebook is in your travels, donít overuse it. Some backpackers fall into the mindset that they will only eat and stay at places that the guidebook lists or go to places the guidebook lists. Use the guidebook while you are in the planning stages for hostels or first arrive in your destination. Your guidebook is just that - a guide - for a traveller to help them decide where to go next and give suggestions on where to stay, what is good to eat, and what to do once they arrive. The authors of these books can never keep up with all the changes that happen all over the world, nor can they visit every single hostel or restaurant in every city. Once you have a place to stay and know the basic area, head to the tourist agencies or talk to other backpackers for the latest information.

Once you are finished with your guidebook, you have a couple options. You can give it or trade it with another backpacker. I have done this several times. When I was finished with a guidebook, I would see if anyone had another guidebook for the next place I was planning to visit. Most hostels have a ďtake a book, leave a bookĒ area. Find yourself some other reading material for the trip. You can always keep it and take it home with you. Itís sometimes nice to look through it and remember all the places where you have been.

Note: Some backpackers tear pages out of their guidebooks when they are done with a section or not planning to visit a certain place. I donít do this. I would rather give my book to another backpacker who needs it than destroy it. Also, an undamaged book makes it possible to trade with another backpacker.